A New Dynamic Takes Hold in German Protest Movement

All protest activities in Germany – from those well-known such as the predominantly leftist Monday Rallies to new ones — have seen their ranks swell over the past three weeks. However, the most significant growth, both in participants and geographical spread, have been in Germany’s eastern regions, and there, the main drivers are entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized firms and craftsmen (the most effective of these being the “Craftsmen for Peace”). These actions are mostly non-partisan and, being done on short notice, are also very effective.

On Oct. 12, entrepreneurs in the hotel and restaurant branches in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern announced a weekly coordinated silent protest by their staffs every Wednesday at 12:05 am, as a symbol that political and economic changes corresponding to citizens’ concerns are long overdue. One day later, some 1,200 entrepreneurs from several branches of SMEs staged a motorcade in nine cities of the same state, including in the capital Schwerin.

The next day, a rally drew 5,000 people in Dresden, held in front of the famous Church of Our Lady. This was a first breakthrough in the momentum to extend the previous protests to the larges cities – such as Dresden with its population of 500,000. Then, on Oct. 18, the spotlight was on Grimma, a city near Leipzig, Saxony’s largest, which was attended by thousands, including the state’s Prime Minister Kretschmer. This event significantly broadened the participation, since it was backed by 10 mayors of other smaller cities in the region, as well as the regional farmers association. The final target of the protest wave is Berlin, where a very large turnout is expected in a few weeks from now.

The action in Grimma was officially registered by roofing master Johannes Heine under the title “Energy instead of Ideology”. This motto captures both the hardships and the fears of broad sections of the population due to the energy crisis and to the war in Ukraine. For the mayor Matthias Berger, it is seen as an opportunity for “ordinary citizens to finally become political and take their fate into their own hands instead of leaving it to the political fringes.”

It is quite legitimate that the strongholds of the protest wave are all in the eastern regions of Germany, where the original Monday Rallies of hundreds of thousands, particularly in Leipzig, brought down the political regime of East Germany at the end of 1989. Compared to Germans in the West, those in the East have remained far more rebellious in the decades since then. They may again be at the forefront of a profound change in Germany’s political history…

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